TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Former University of Arizona football coach Richard Rodriguez maintained an autocratic cabal among top assistants, guided by his self-authored manual called the “hideaway book,” expecting them to maintain secrecy about an extramarital affair, cater to his personal needs and protect his reputation, one assistant claimed in a federal lawsuit Thursday.
Melissa Melendez, Rodriguez’s assistant from his hiring in 2012 until she resigned in 2017, was expected to lie to protect Rodriguez, including telling his daughter that she knew nothing about a woman whose text – “I love you” – the girl saw on her dad’s iPad. Melendez also endured repeated comments about her boss’s genitalia and received text photos from players of their genitalia, she claims in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
One day, Melendez found herself between Rodriguez’s wife and girlfriend on the sideline of a football game, making sure there was no conflict, the lawsuit claims.
“The following Monday, Ms. Melendez complained to Rodriguez about how upsetting it was to be placed in that situation. Rodriguez laughed it off without acknowledging her stress or sense of betrayal to his wife,” the lawsuit says.
Melendez says she, Charlie Ragle, and Miguel Reveles called themselves the “Triangle of Secrecy,” and were forced to lie to Rodriguez’s wife to cover up his extramarital affair or anything that could harm his reputation, Melendez claims in her lawsuit, which mirrors claims she has made in Pima County Superior Court.
In May 2016, Rodriguez’s wife, Rita, also a defendant in the lawsuit, asked Melendez out to lunch, which became a “three hour interrogation” about Melendez’s knowledge of Rodriguez’s infidelities and flirting, the lawsuit claims.
In November 2016, Melendez claims, she got a call from a Tucson resort that Rodriguez had made inappropriate sexual advances toward a massage therapist, a complaint that never got past her voicemail.
The following January, Rodriguez asked Melendez into his office, where he told her that he was in counseling with his wife but needed to be with someone more passionate, which she took to mean her, the lawsuit claims. He then touched the side of Melendez’s breast and tried to kiss her.
After that incident, Melendez started suffering from migraine headaches and began to look for a way out, eventually taking a job with a University of Arizona donor who knew of her work supporting UA athletics, the lawsuit says.
“Although Ms. Melendez has a new job, she constantly runs into old acquaintances and wonders whether they think she was nothing more than Rodriguez’s concubine all those years. He certainly never did anything to dissuade others from assuming as much. Although the migraines have subsided, the nightmares have not. Ms. Melendez entered counseling to help her deal with the ongoing stress of being in such an abusive work environment and help her move on from it,” the lawsuit says.
Rodriguez was fired in early 2018 by the university after an investigation sparked by Melendez’s lawsuit in Superior Court. He is now the defensive coordinator for Ole Miss University.
The Arizona Board of Regents and the Ole Miss Athletics Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.